This site is intended for Healthcare Professionals only

Never hurray a Murray


Never hurray a Murray

Withering hopes that the chief pharmaceutical officer can really get behind Murray’s freshly minted report

It took him long enough, didn’t it? It’s been 12 years since Keith Ridge was appointed as chief pharmaceutical officer at the Department of Health and finally he’s managed to clear his in-tray and get round to commissioning an independent report on clinical services in community pharmacy – by the director of policy at the King’s Find, Richard Murray.

It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? I mean, I know it takes a while to settle into a new job, and I’m sure the poor chap has had his plate full, but
you would have thought that with all the problems the NHS is facing at the moment he would have been busier than ever. Still, better late than never, eh?

The report makes 11 recommendations, under three headings: services (electronic repeat dispensing, update of MURs, a minor ailments scheme – yes, really! – and smoking cessation); new models of care (integrating existing Vanguard programmes with the Pharmacy Integration Fund); and overcoming barriers (integrating community pharmacy into Sustainability and Transformation Plans, having access to patient records, wider roles for pharmacy technicians, developing clinical pathways that involve community pharmacy, closer engagement with general practitioners, and collaboration between NHS England and pharmacy bodies).

Hang on, I thought, that looks familiar: where could I possibly have seen it before? Then I remembered – it was last August. It was something called the Community Pharmacy Forward View. Now where did that come from? Oh, yes – it was a joint initiative from PSNC and Pharmacy Voice. I have to say that, at the time, I thought it was a tad ambitious, but who cares? I welcomed the Forward View, but ventured to suggest that I thought the powers that be had little appetite for what it contained. How wrong can you be? I think it’s important to own up when you’re wrong, so this is me owning up. Congratulations to everyone involved in putting the Forward View together, your hard work has been vindicated. Well done! But ... do we need a quick reality check?

Keith Ridge has welcomed the Murray report, saying that it ‘‘points the way to a more clinical future for community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians”. It’s the kind of language you would expect from a civil servant, isn’t it? Non-committal, you could say. He has also said that “the NHS locally and nationally will want to consider many of the ideas the report lays out”. Point the way? Consider? Is that it?

On the thorny matter of a minor ailments scheme, which everyone knows is sorely needed, Murray says that “NHS England should set out how it intends to deliver” on its promise to have locally commissioned minor ailments schemes across England by April 2018 and that progress on this “clearly needs to happen sooner”. As he points out, a national minor ailments scheme has been available in Scotland for nearly 10 years, and – guess what – in Scotland hospitals are meeting their A&E waiting time targets.

The reality check was best articulated by Sandra Gidley (chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board) when she quite reasonably pointed out that “it is not credible for anyone who works on the front line ... to view this report without reference to the reduction in funding for community pharmacy ...” It’s fair to say that morale and goodwill among pharmacy contractors have sunk to an all-time low while scepticism and cynicism are at an all-time high. For that to change, we need to see rapid movement on implementation of the Murray report recommendations together with a fair level of funding to introduce and sustain any developments. If that doesn’t happen, the Murray report will be nothing but another footnote in the long history of how government failed community pharmacy.

Withering is the pen name of a practising independent community pharmacist. Withering’s views are not necessarily those of ICP

Copy Link copy link button